By KALITA SPLENDOR
BELOW the towering fertile Malakunuwanai and Galavi peaks live the Koluwawa people from the West Fergusson Local Level Government on Fergusson Island in Milne Bay.
Koluwawa people historically are like many people in places in PNG that lived a fierce, head-hunting life in the past, but later got transformed by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in early 1900s.
The area today is popularly known as Kalokalo and a United Church mission station is now established at Kubowa. The name Kalokalo was believed to be given by an early Dobuan missionary named Isako Baloiloi and his marama spouse.
It was a beautiful Thursday on Nov 16, as white cumulus clouds slowly danced past the two high peaks, Malakunuwanai and Galavi. Below, Kalokalo mission station came alive with great excitement for the celebration of 100 years of gospel landing at Laufule mangrove beach. It then moved to Kunumaimai, and later establishing its final home at Kubowa Mission Station.
The day was fine; a little hot but the special hint of heavy feasting smoke slowly billowing up into the clear sky against Malakunuwanai and Galavi reminded one of a joyous occasion reaching its great height at Kubowa Mission Station.
The seas remained perfectly calm as the United Church Mission boat MV Bromilow moored into Koluwawa Bay accompanied by a flotilla of banana boats carrying past missionaries and their families who served in Kalokalo United Church; as well as the head of the United Church in Milne Bay, Bishop Reverend Leidimo Edoni.
First, the Wagifa Islanders met MV Bromilow out at Oluweia point. The islanders performed an incredible and spectacular traditional kundu drum dancing on two ocean-going trading canoes tied together and escorted the delegation to Laufule shores.
At the mangrove beach at Laufule, the delegation disembarked and was greeted by Kalokalo centenary organisers; followed by the re-enactment of the first gospel landing on that shore by men and women dressed as fierce warriors.
The delegation made a short stop over at Kunumaimai where the first gospel was preached. Following light refreshments, the procession continued through six other stops, hosted by different Kalokalo United Church Circuit congregations. The final stop was at Kubowa Mission Station where the main celebration ran for two days.
According to church history researched and read by the Circuit Minister and Convenor Reverend George Kawanamo; it was under the leadership of Australian missionary Rev William Green White who served five years at Bwaidoga on Goodenough Island, and who later appointed a Samoan Pastor Ezekiel Veitali and wife Tatufu with Fijian missionary Ilaitia Tausia to move across and serve in Kalokalo Circuit on Fergusson Island.
By then, the gospel through the Methodist Church had already reached Bwaidoga (Goodenough Island) areas from Dobu Island after Rev William Bromilow brought the gospel there on June 19, 1918.
Remarkably, the gospel took 26 years to reach Kowawa areas from Bwaidoga, despite the distance from Bwaidoga to Koluwawa being just a mere 20 minute dinghy ride across the Moresby Strait.
However, tragedy struck on the date of the Samoan and Fijian missionaries engagement to Koluwawa.
The Samoan missionary’s wife, Tatufu Veitali tragically died which ceased all missionaries’ engagement to Koluwawa. They remained at Bwaidoga to mourn their colleague’s death.
Reverend Green White then opted for a newly converted local missionary Sioni Adiwaiyaku Ivuyago from Bwaidoga to take up the engagement to bring the gospel to the Koluwawa people.
Extracts from Tasmanian Andrew Bolton from his book; “Tears of my work in Papua” on page five reveals that when Reverand Green White approached Ivuyago to bring the gospel to Koluwawa, Ivuyavo prayed and asked; ”Lord in Jesus Name. Show me two signs that it is your plan and not me.
“Tomorrow if it is rainy, stormy, thunder with lightening in the Bwainu Bay (Bwaidoga), I will go. But if there is smokes (sic) in Mt Malakunuwanai and Galavi, I will not go. For the smokes (sic) are in preparation to burn me and eat me.”
Kalokalo United Church celebrates 100 years of gospel landing
So while the mourning progressed with the sound of a garamut depicting death and burial in Bwainiu Bay on Oct 17, 1917, Ivuyago was commissioned on a boat named Waliboti, bound for Koluwawa.
The team departed at 9am for Oluweia Point equipped with a Holy Bible on Iyuyago’s right hand, and a spear in his left in rainy and stormy weather. The weather simply signified mission successful for Sioni Adiwaiyaku Avuyago.
The team made a stop-over at Oluweia point where Avuyago wore a tie then proceeded to Laufule beach and was confronted by fierce warriors of the Koluwawa tribe. After a while they were accepted and settled at Kunumaimai.
Five years later (1922), the church shifted to Ufadoga and in 1939 moved to its present location at Kubowa which is now the headquarters of Kalokalo United Church Circuit.
The Kalokalo United Church history revealed that from; 1917-1934, Kalokalo Circuit was under Dobu Circuit Administration out from Salamo.
From 1935-1941; Kalokalo Circuit was established and Salamo transferred the congregation to Bwaidoga Circuit. Kalokalo became a section of Bwaidoga Circuit.
From 1942-1946; the church was halted and all missionaries were withdrawn due to the emerging second World War. From 1947-1967; Kalokalo Circuit remained under Bwaidoga Circuit until Rev Coleen Garlic moved the headquarter from Wailagi to Kalokalo.
In 1967; Kalokalo became a circuit of its own and still operated as a Methodist Church. Then from 1968-2017; Kalokalo became United Church and remained until today.
Papuan Island Region (PIR) Bishop Edoni in his remarks paid tribute to the pioneer missionary that brought the gospel to Koluwawa.
“Today, we see not white people become pioneers in mission work only; but indigenous people that marks a historical event not for Kalokalo but also for United Church in PIR and PNG. Especially the indigenous missionaries whose records were not put correct in church history.
“The biased history was always focused on overseas and Pacific missionaries, disadvantaging our indigenous missionaries who actually did the hard work but were not acknowledged. Today I will put history in its right perspective,” the bishop told the celebrants.
The church leader also acknowledged that the celebrations were because God has made it possible for local people to become pioneer missionaries themselves to our own people.
“When we stand together, we become a formidable force, able to go and tell our people and get them out from prisons and dungeons so they can be set free by God so they can be liberated,” Rev Edoni boldly encouraged all sister churches.
Kalokalo elite and primary school head teacher Jeffery Mesake Manimua however queried why it took 26 years to evangelise Koluwawa areas because there were not any written records of it.
“My only question to church historians and missionaries; can they explain to the present Koluwawa generation what was the reason why it took 26 years for the gospel to come across to Koluwawa land, though its just 15 to 20 minutes ride across the passage on a dinghy.”
- The writer is a special correspondent.